Summary: A sermon on spiritual gifts, serving and meeting needs (Material adapted from Dr. Jack Cottrell's book, "The Holy Spirit: A Biblical Study", chapter 7)
The former editor of Christianity Today, Kenneth Kantzer, commented once that he never knew what his gift was. He just served where he saw the need. If a man of this experience and caliber never knew what his gift was but just served where he saw a need, then this should serve as a good example to all of us. (From Kenneth Berding's book, "What are Spiritual Gifts?" pg. 273)
Talked about the indwelling presence of the HS in us as Christians. What is the HS doing?
He is sanctifying us, but he is also equipping us with gifts by which we can serve others.
The HS comes into our hearts, bodies and lives and with His presence He also gives “spiritual gifts.” The gift gives us gifts.
Thesis: Talk about the concept, the purpose, and the types of spiritual gifts.
The Concept of Spiritual gifts
How do we find out our spiritual gift(s)? A common approach is that we should examine ourselves, discern our God given strengths and abilities, and dedicate these as gifts from the Spirit to service in God’s kingdom. Many even have Spiritual Gift Inventory tests that can be taken. These can be valuable. However, if this is the only way that we can find out our spiritual gifts why didn’t God give us free of charge tests in His Word?
One mistake is to equate natural gifts with spiritual gifts. Most of us have things in our lives that are gifts that were evident from birth. Saw this in them from a young age.
Most people were born with natural endowments, whether they are Christians or not. People can use these things for good or for evil as seen throughout history. The fact that such inclinations or tendencies or talents are present does not make them spiritual gifts. At best we may call them providential gifts. God in his general providence has permitted such talents to be present and/or developed. This does not constitute spiritual giftedness.
The primary aspect of a spiritual gift is not a talent but a task. One may indeed has an innate ability in a particular area and the HS could very well enhance or tweak that ability and use it for God’s glory. But the main point of receiving a spiritual gift is to be given a specific task to perform within the body of Christ, whether this comes from the HS or not.
One key to identifying one’s spiritual gift is to be called by the HS into a particular task or office or area of service. In Bible times when God gave direct revelation such a calling was clear like to Moses in Exodus 3, and Saul or Tarsus in Acts 9 f. Sometimes the calling was made by God’s people, guided by general instructions from God.
Such calls are issued to people who may or may not have any natural ability for the specified task. When miraculous gifts are involved, such as tongues or healing, an innate ability will by nature be absent. People do not have natural abilities to do supernatural things. Moses did not grow up parting the Nile river. Regarding nonmiraculous gifts, most often we can expect the Spirit to call someone who already has some ability in that area. When this happens, the role of the Spirit is to enhance, sharpen, and focus that talent for the task.
Many examples from the OT. In Exodus the Lord gave detailed instructions to the Israelites to build the tabernacle. Needed many skilled craftsmen to do this. Called two men to head up the project, Bezalel and Oholiab. These two were probably given some new skills to accomplish this. Others came around them and these already had skills in this area but God enhanced and consecrated these skills and made them even better at their tasks.
Another OT example is in Numbers where Moses needs others to help with his leadership burden in Numbers 11. God gives Moses general instructions concerning who should be chosen and then the people chose the 70.
NT examples is the office of apostle. Jesus through the Spirit called individuals to perform the task or function of apostle. We are not told anything about the 12 special talents but we know that Jesus called them and told them that God would use them for a special work.
Another NT example is the appointing of the 7 deacons in Acts 6. There is no indication that these 7 had special talents for this task.
We can see that a spiritual gift is a calling to perform a task within the church. Having an ability for the task is good, but this is not the important issue. The Spirit may call someone with a talent, and then enhance and focus that talent toward the task. Or the Spirit may call someone without a talent, an then bestow the ability if needed.